Text Review of “A Small Place”

In Jamaica Kincaid’s story A Small Place, she explores the reality of Antigua through tourism, colonialism, and present-day Antigua.  Kincaid uses different tones and even in the first section addressed ‘you’ to make the reader feel affected, displaced or uncomfortable.   Kincaid expressed anger towards the colonialism that she experienced while growing up in Antigua and goes on to explain how it has molded the corruption of modern-day Antigua.

Kincaid argues that there are so many fundamental issues with developing countries such as Antigua because of European colonialism.  Just as we read in Things Fall Apart, the colonizers treated the natives terribly- enslavement, murder, imprisonment.  Just like the village of Umuofia was taught and told that Europe was a place of elegance and beauty, so was Kincaid told while growing up in Antigua; although, in both examples the colonizers were the exact opposite with their rude and brutal treatment.

Kincaid goes on to argue that due to their poor leadership and governance under colonial rule, it set a bad example of how the country should be ran after gaining independence. It led Antigua to be susceptible to the corruption that now rules the island.  Additionally, when the colonial control withdrew their forces, the country was left with very little making it harder to succeed as an independent country.  The corrupt government hides its struggles with the flock of tourism to their pristine beaches and perfect weather.

This essay does a great job inspiring conversation about identity, power and injustice.  Can you see the connections? The Antiguan identity being falsely molded by colonialism and tourism. The corrupt nature of power in modern day Antigua.  The injustice served by their corrupt governors and the injustices left when the colonizers retreated home.  There are so many more unexplored avenues of this story.  Kincaid writes in such a way to make you feel uncomfortable but in such a way that the displacement is eye-opening.

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

Kincaid focuses on the ugliness of tourism, and how morally/spiritually wrong it is to exploit the land where one travels. When people travel to escape the boredom of their own mundane lives, they are exploiting the daily lives of the locals. This creates a space where the locals are now “Other” to the tourist in their own residence. Tourist travel to escape and view the beauty of other countries, be more simple and be closer to nature, while this romanticization exploits the humble and impoverished state of people.

The colonial education the Antiguans receive is under a British system, so they are learning not of their own history, but of one that has enslaved, and then colonized them. Due to this the Antiguans are passive objects of history, so they are always second, and the British system will always dictate events, history, and language. This makes the Antiguan people “Subaltern” according to Spivak. They are removed from all lines of social mobility, due to how they were enslaved and colonized by the British system, and how the tourists have exploited them. They have no control of what happens in the future, what they are educated on, or any say in the governmental affairs. Little to no change will ever happen if the Antiguan people do not revolt against this colonial oppression.

There is a connection between corruption and colonization, and this is why there is a continuation of oppression. Colonization creates class differences, and this leads to broken systems, that likely do not change. The British system claims to be helping the Antiguans by colonizing Antigua, but all the while the system is continually taking more and more from the people. The government ministers were running brothels, stealing the public’s funds, and arranging ill intended deals. There is no outrage from the people due to how they were shaped and molded into being passive objects of history. The class differences created by the corruption, and colonization lend to Othering and prejudice. Those well off in the government see no wrong as they continually benefit from the corruption socio-economically, and do not care of the Othering they create. The “Other” and “Subalterns” go together, as the Other is a subaltern. The system does not help those who have no voice or economic impact, and for this reason their voices continue to go unheard, circumstances never change, and oppression goes on unchecked.

Kicaid wants the readers to walk away with a new perspective; one that is to think twice before you travel to escape your mundane, and potentially exploit the lives of the locals. Tourist hurt the daily lives of the locals even more so, on top of the colonial oppression and corruption they experience. It’s made me think twice about where I travel, and what my intentions are when doing so. It’s made me question, “will there be a detrimental spill-over effect, from doing this”?

Othered Citizens

Kincaid portrayed an Antigua with corrupted government, culturally lost natives and prioritized white people through the eyes of an imaginary white tourist. She expressed her anger towards the English colonizers, and more than that, she uncovered the weakness in this small country and its people.

The major idea of this article is to reveal how Antiguan struggle in finding out their national identity after hundreds of years of being an English colony. The history of English governing washed away their notion of nationality, and maybe the ability of finding one. Antiguan are deprived of their own culture since they are taught in English and that they should believe in English god and love the queen of England. The repair of the national library was postponed; the government seems indifferent on cultivating culture independent of the English one. General citizens are not involved in controlling major economic activities in Antigua, foreigners do instead. Corruptions spread widely among Ministers, in which they monopolize profitable or even illegal businesses. Politically, Antigua people see themselves inferior to white westerners, even if they seem bad-mannered. They don’t feel centered in their home country but seconded or marginalized.

The article reminds me of the notion of other, which we came across many times in the readings throughout this course. This concept might help explain why Antiguans are lost in establishing a healthy self-centered identity. In the old colony times, the English governors and inhabitants did an excellent job in defining who are us and who are other, in their favor, of course. Hierarchies are formed based on the notion that colonizers are more intellectual and organized so that they stand in the center. That is why in Antigua, dark-skinned Syrians and Lebanese are regarded as foreigners, white people are not. The injustice maintained through post-colony times. The unfair institutions and hierarchies are internalized by Antiguans. They see corrupted government and rude westerners. But they don’t feel the urge to change all these. Because they do feel responsible for transforming the country, being part of other.

The take-home question from this article is what impact the history of colony might have on shaping national identities as well as citizenships. The work absolutely stimulates thoughts around identity forming and transforming by providing a representative post-colonial case of Antigua. Institutions of injustice are established by colonists to their benefit. It is going to be a long and suffering progress in transforming self-awareness from other to us.



Kincaid, Jamaica. 1988. A Small Place. Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A Small Place Review

A Small Place Audiobook by Jamaica Kincaid - 9781504743389 ...

A Small Place, written by Jamaica Kincaid is separated by four somewhat connected sections and tells of the beauty of Antigua. She first asks the reader to become a hypothetical tourist exploring this gorgeous country. She explains the natural beauty of Antigua seems almost unreal until the tourist looks closer at the poverty-stricken towns and corrupt mansions surrounding them. She places her emphasis on an old library that was destroyed by an earthquake ten years ago and still has not been repaired. She delves deeper into the “colonial possession” held by Great Britain and Antigua’s subject to casual racism by it. Kincaid talks about English rule over Antiguans and their thoughts toward this racism which she explains, they do not seem to recognize it. I believe the Antiguans’ identity was stripped away from them after the colonization of Great Britain. Every aspect of their lives and culture were drastically changed forever and subjected to only expressing themselves in the language of their colonizers. Furthermore, the power demonstrated over the Antiguans was not only corrupt but ill-mannered towards the people there. The injustice towards the Antiguans from the English colonizers is one of many instances around the world that native towns and cities are subjected to even in the present. The display of othering by Great Britain towards Antigua was evident by their neglect towards important structures, such as the library and education diminished after their independence. Kincaid witnessed their corrupt officials allowing many cases of abuse of their power such as drug smuggling and political violence. These extreme displays of othering, neglect, racial injustice, and abuse of power give us a depiction of the horrors people like Kincaid face every day. I believe Jamaica Kincaid wants us to realize the injustices that happen all around the world that are not covered by news or televised. She wants us to realize that corruption and othering aren’t always plain to see, and even the most beautiful places in the world can hide the most terrible injustices.

Seeing Patients

Seeing Patients: Unconscious Bias in Health Care is a novel written by Augustus A. White III, M.D. Dr. White grew up in the segregated southern city of Memphis, Tennessee before the Civil Rights Act was passed. This novel tells the story of this orthopedic surgeon’s life and explores his encounters with racism.

Dr. White, or “Gus” as he went by as an adolescent, struggled with injustice his whole life. Whether he was facing them on his own account or watching it happen to someone else, it was occurring. A specific example of this is when Gus was trying to narrow down what colleges he wanted to apply to. He had his criteria of sports offered, good pre-med programs, and the last, “how did it treat Negroes?” This was an absurd criterion, but there was another aspect to this: Did the college even accept students of African American decent? Some colleges did not accept any Black students, while others operated on a quota system. This is an obvious injustice because even though an African American student may be just as qualified, if not more than a White student, they most likely cannot enroll in a school because of race.

Issues with power are seen throughout this book, most of them overlapping with injustices. The front flap, however, sums up the issues that Dr. White views in healthcare. It states, “The key to getting the very best medical care: be a white, straight, middle-class male.” While working as a scrub nurse one summer before he attended medical school, Augustus, witnessed a situation where a Black woman was powerless. She came to get a cancerous tumor removed by a white surgeon. The surgeon was disrespectful towards her before the surgery. During surgery, the woman was hemorrhaging, but the surgeon kept cutting and eventually let her die. There was no dignity involved. Had this been an unconscious or maybe even conscious bias of that surgeon? If the patient were a straight white male would the surgeon had explored another option?

This book certainly reminds me of works such as John Lewis’ March and MLK Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” There are many things related to civil rights because Dr. White grew up during this time. Dr. White, in his own way was contributing to the fight for civil rights. He held a lot of the “first” positions. That is, he was the first black American to accomplish things. Dr. White wants his readers to know about the biases in healthcare, but also to know about prejudices and racism of the past and present. This work certainly inspires conversation related to injustice, power, and identity.

A Small Place – Text Review

Jamaica Kincaid’s, A Small Place, tells the story of present day Antigua and how it has been shaped by British colonialism.  Despite being a popular tourist destination for Westerners, the real Antigua is described by the book’s narrator (and author) as corrupt and dilapidated.  Because this book deals with post-colonialism, I couldn’t help but think about Ahmad’s critique on Jameson’s Third World literature theory.  Although Kincaid writes about the effects of slavery and colonialism, she does so in her own voice and on her own terms.  Her work should not be disregarded as third world lit just because she talks about colonialism.  Likewise, her experiences should not be viewed as a single story of what life is like in Antigua.  According to the author, Antigua is a place ruined by the aftermath of slavery and British rule.  She describes that many of the major businesses were run by white people, some of whom refused to serve blacks or even respect their humanity.  The Mill Reef Club was one of these places and was built and run by Americans who wanted to use Antigua as a vacation spot.  They only allowed blacks into the club as servants and otherwise wanted nothing to do with the people living there.  Kincaid describes the owners as “unchristian-like” and  inhuman animals with bad manners (Kincaid 28).  Thus, she uses words a colonist might say about a slave to expose the white residents’ unabashed racism in a town that is not their own. 

Kincaid also condemns the tourists who visit Antigua for its tropical climate and beauty.  She assumes a western audience and directly calls out the reader by using “you”.  She writes that we tourists ignore the injustices we see and marvel at the quaint, impoverished lifestyles of the inhabitants.  In doing so, she lumps us (western tourists) together and constructs us as Other.  On the contrary, Kincaid also describes how Antiguans are Othered in their own home as a result of British colonial rule.  She writes that Antiguans were forced to speak English, follow British rules, and celebrate British holidays.  In this way, Antiguains can be thought of as subaltern.  Kincaid writes about the pain and humiliation of having to talk about the horrors of colonial rule in the language of their oppressors.  She says that “the language of the criminal can explain and express the deed only from the criminals point of view. It cannot contain the horror of the deed…” (Kincaid 32).  Similarly, I’m reminded of Persepolis in the way Antiguans are born and raised in English culture, but not accepted as English.  Both works depict people who struggle with identity and fail to be truly accepted in a culture in which they feel is their own.

A Small Place urges us as westerners to think deeply about how we act and perceive others.  Kincaid speaks directly to us and calls us out for our ugly behavior as ignorant tourists and bystanders.  She forces us to think about the injustices and power structures that we would rather ignore. Kincaid urges us to think critically about the things we take for granted and open our eyes to the inequities to which we have become blind.

Orientalism in Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love is a movie based on the memoir Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. It chronicles Gilbert’s post-divorce search to ‘re-find her passion, her spark, her fire for life’ as she travels from her home in Manhattan to Italy, India, and Bali for one year. While this movie was widely popular when it came out, it has also been heavily critiqued for its reliance on orientalist tropes of the ‘Far East’ as a source of spiritual healing for white people. When Liz, the main character, travels to Italy she spends a significant amount of time with locals, even making an Italian family a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. However, when she travels to India and Bali the locals are in the background while she socializes with almost exclusively expats. The locals who Liz does interact with in India and Bali are reduced to stereotypes and caricatures, only there for Liz to use as steps to her ‘enlightenment.’ In the ashram in India she makes friends with a 17 year old girl, Tulsi, whom Liz comforts after she tells her she is being forced into an arranged marriage that she does not want, giving Liz the opportunity to reflect on her own failed marriage. In Bali she visits a ‘healer,’ Ketut, who “teaches her everything he knows” in broken English with a grin on his face, showing her the path to ‘balance’ in her life. In Bali she also makes friends with a single mother who heals her physical ailments and listens to her problems, a brown woman Liz ‘saves’ by collecting donations from her friends and family for the woman (seemingly without permission). India and Bali are also portrayed as simple and otherworldly, a “paradise” for Americans to “discover” and “find themselves.” The locals in India and Bali are background characters who don’t particularly seem to be existing in the 21st century, a spectacle to look at and to create the “peaceful” atmosphere Liz so desires. Where this movie is from the point of view of a white woman, all other non-white characters are Othered, reduced, and homogenized for her consumption and personal fulfillment.